Jennifer Aniston – an actor seen frequently doing great work in poor films, sometimes excellent work in good films, and occasionally, amazing work in excellent films. How are we to know this prolific and skilled artist’s full range? We’ll just have to watch all of her films. After a hiatus, Aniston of the Week is back, and this time, it’s Marley & Me.
FILM: Marley & Me
DIRECTOR: David Frankel
SCREENWRITER: Scott Frank, Don Roos
CHARACTER NAME AND PROFESSION: Jenny, Journalist.
PLOT SUMMARY: Jenny is married to John (Owen Wilson), who is also an (aspiring) reporter. They move to Florida and buy a house. Jenny’s career is very successful, with her taking frequent trips abroad for work. When he senses she wants to have a baby, he’s encouraged by his friend to get her a puppy instead. They name the puppy Marley and essentially never bother to train him, so he constantly behaves erratically and wrecks their house. Instead of becoming a reporter, John writes a column, which features Marley heavily. Eventually they have kids and Jenny struggles with being a full-time Mum. They move to Philadelphia so John can be a reporter but he ends up writing a column again. The whole family loves Marley right until the end of his life.
CHARACTER TRAITS: Ambitious, intelligent, organised, patient.
NOTES ON PERFORMANCE: A key moment here is Jenny adjusting to being a full-time mother, having previously been more successful in her career than John. Here, Aniston expresses the frustration of having seemingly conflicting feelings, of wanting to be with her children but feeling like she’s given up a part of her identity in order to do so. She’s angry, sad, frustrated, and showing all of it convincingly. It’s a shame the film doesn’t focus more on this struggle, seeing as it’s about the only real drama in the film.
NOTES ON FILM: A real comfort blanket of a film where essentially nothing much happens and a family live a fairly privileged life. Being from the male perspective makes it all the weaker – the film is based on the book from which the columns about Marley came. Still, Jenny’s identity crisis is so much richer than John’s – at one point she even declares how exhausted she is with his dissatisfaction, despite how full their lives are – but this is not given any further exploration. Ultimately it’s a weepy about a dog that teaches children about death.
CONCLUSION: Standard Aniston is a mainly supporting role. Given that one big scene to show her dramatic skills, but otherwise usurped by Wilson’s voiceover.